Trepuzzi, August 3rd 2020

Giardino project was born as an epicurean suggestion, from a meeting, from a conversation held last October with Francesco Snote, a valuable Piedmontese sculptor. In one of the bars of the Balon in Turin, located behind Porta Palazzo, between the voices of the people at the market and the confusion at aperitif time the topics were varied and some of them were already known because in art, especially in contemporary art, the problems are almost always the same and most of the time unsolvable.

Francesco told me about the experience of PINETA living together with the painter Lula Broglio in a private house, surrounded by greenery in the parts of Liguria, used for short periods as a meeting place for friends, mostly artists. The merit of these aspects is that art, as Bourriaud writes, has always been relational to different degrees, that is, a factor of social participation and founder of dialogue 1 .

Thinking of the recent past I remember the period spent in Naples, at Casa Morra. An incredible museum space created by the former gallery owner and patron Giuseppe Morra inside Palazzo Ayerbo D’Aragona Cassano, a former eighteenth-century monastic convent of 4,200 square meters located beyond the walls of the historic center of the city, on the hill of Materdei in the Art Quarter.

Since 2016 Casa Morra, a museum research centre also active as an artist’s residence, is a large contemporary art archive dedicated to movements such as Gutai, Happening, Fluxus, Viennese Actionism, Living Theatre and Visual Poetry, which collects over 2000 works by great artists such as Marina Abramović, Nanni Balestrini, Urs Luthi, Charlotte Moorman, Nam Jume Paik, Giulio Paolini, Luca Maria Patella, Vettor Pisani and Shozo Shimamoto to name but a few. During this anarchic and community experience where art and life interpenetrate above all in domestic places, the teachings of Peppe Morra and the meetings with Hermann Nitsch, Achille Bonito Oliva, Andrea Viliani, Cai Guo-Qiang, Nanni Balestrini and Cesare Pietroiusti, all masters, interpreters and actors who have lived and live art also as a place of human relations and connections of a political and social nature with respect to the conventions of the contemporary system, were fundamental.

Now with hindsight, I believe that the Neapolitan years were propitiatory of mental gymnastics, a germinal and silent exercise that somehow served to arrive at the realization of the garden project, concretely revealed during the lockdown period. In the past, a personal comparison with the spatial dimension, linked to unconventional places, has aroused great curiosity since the exhibitions held in a former fish market, in the red auditorium of the MACRO, on the sides of tram 19, in the bus shelters, in a rock church with the Black Virgin by Vector Pisani, in the halls and the parade ground of a castle, on the prospect of an old building, at the entrance of an apartment in Lecce, in the large and frescoed rooms of a noble building in Palermo and on a roundabout in the industrial area.

Today the idea of organizing a thought related to visual arts, inside the garden of the house, was a reflection in a certain sense forced because paraphrasing Gilles Clément in “Brief history of the garden” the man decides to create his own garden when he chooses to interrupt his wanderings 2 . The pandemic blockade gave real and personal meaning to the project, finding fertile ground in the words of the French landscape architect and in other readings that I have deepened during these months.

Fortunately, I returned from Turin on March 5, I was able to spend the quarantine in the house of residence in Trepuzzi, in a condominium apartment of the 80s (built as a social housing plan) that from the studio overlooks a small rectangular garden of about centre square meters with a single entrance gate. This urban enclosure protected on the side by a row of Viburnum Tinus (an evergreen of Mediterranean origin), a white jasmine pergola, a young olive tree and other species of plants has welcomed the deafening silence of a legalized imprisonment.

The days spent in quarantine were indispensable to imagine a noisy garden, an open microcosm dedicated to the visual arts and dialogue, a domestic place of procedural, relational and convivial sharing. The idea of a form of mental gardening takes on spatial consistency citing the age-old question of art imitating nature or of nature imitating art and having in the garden the maximum point of synthesis because the elements that compose it coincide with those that are at the origin of life on our planet: water, air, earth, fire (light and fire) 3 .

Hence, the title of Volume 0. On the branches of that microcosm resonate aerial motifs, it is thought also in reference to the description of the Persian-Sasanid garden, taken from one of the Arabic novels of Le Mille e Una Notte. Here the literary incipit acquires a connotation suspended between reality and fantasy that on the one hand maintains the historical and figurative characters of the hanging gardens of Babylon and on the other hand hosts and passes down a timeless knowledge, relived in a contemporary and domestic key during an entire day marked by the singing and the industriousness of the birds.

Living the dimension of a garden together with all the components that are part of it, means not only having a constant care of a measured ecosystem, of an architectural place but also grasping the most authentic social bond that is triggered in a daily dimension because the space of current relations is the one most severely affected by the general reification.

Symbolized by goods or replaced by them, marked by logos, the field of human relations must take on extreme or clandestine forms if it is to escape the empire of the predictable. The social bond has become a standardized artefact. In a world governed by the division of labour and ultra-specialization, by becoming a machine and by the law of profit, rulers are interested in human relations being channelled towards escape routes that are designed for this purpose, and that they are established according to one or two simple, controllable and repeatable principles. […]. This is a society in which human relations are no longer “experienced directly”, but are beginning to be confused because of their “spectacular” representation.

It is here that we find the most current problem of art today: is it possible to still generate relationships with the world, in a practical field -the history of art- traditionally destined to their “representation”?

Contrary to what Debord thought, who saw the art world as nothing more than a reservoir of examples of what had to be concretely “realized” in daily life, artistic practise today seems to be a terrain rich in social experimentation, a reserve partly preserved by the uniformity of models of behaviour 4These reflections initiated by Volume 0 find a reasoned interconnection with the interventions of Stefano Giuri and Caterina Molteni, both focused on an idea of the community gathered both in A tu per tu with Tutankhamen and in Pensiero che scent di terra.

If for the artist (Stefano Giuri) this type of collective aggregation and reflection develops around a sculptural and performative vision that does not neglect history, society and observes the present, also in the research conducted by the Milanese curator (Caterina Molteni), a unified feeling emerges based on a cooperative and social system that studies and reinterprets alternative ways of cultivating the mind, nourish body, spirit and soul, through a process of oral transmission that with the narration is linked to history and reborn from the mythical experience of Monte Verità, to reach us with the free practices of Bagni d’Aria, told for the first time within the walls of a small provincial garden.

Where the green ant's dream is the title of Werner Herzog’s 1984 film, a film where the actions and struggles carried out by a community of native Aborigines are the sign of surrender never denied in defence of their land, their humanity and nature. A cue for visual reflection to believe in every way and with all the strength in the essence of what one is, to oppose the artefact standardization of globalized society.

Giuseppe Amedeo Arnesano

1 N. Bourriaud, Estetica relazionale, p. 15, Postmediabook, Milano 2010
2 G. Clément, Breve storia del giardino, Quodlibet, Macerata 2019
3 P. Grimal, L’arte dei giardini. Una breve storia, Feltrinelli, Milano- Roma 2018

giardino project, curated by Giuseppe Amedeo Arnesano, is a domestic green space dedicated to critical and political confrontation in contemporary artistic and curatorial practices. An urban enclosure where artists and curators will alternate as guests of a three-day summer residence. Talk, site-specific and editorial operations are action and instrument of a process of investigation dedicated to cultural dynamics and visual arts, rethought in a peripheral and provincial vision like that of a country in the South of Italy.
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